Posted on March 24, 2021

The Growing Sports Divide over Race and Politics

David Nather, Axios, March 20, 2021

Americans are divided by race and politics over the appropriateness of political activism in sports, especially when it comes to athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, according to a new Axios-Ipsos poll.

{snip} The poll also found that Americans have more mixed feelings on the use of Native American-themed mascots, which generate strong opposition among Black Americans while other groups are more open to it.


{snip} Overall, people were nearly evenly split on whether professional athletes should express their views on national issues — though strong majorities of respondents of all races and ethnicities said protests against racial injustice are free expression and should be protected.

  • But the split on advocating personal views came largely from the opposition of white respondents: 60% said athletes shouldn’t express their views. By contrast, large majorities of Black respondents (84%), Hispanic respondents (63%), and Asian respondents (68%) said they should.
  • There was also a huge partisan gap, with eight out of 10 Republicans — including 84% of white Republicans — saying athletes shouldn’t express their views. Three out of four Democrats and 57% of independents said they should.

The conflict was even greater over whether it’s appropriate for athletes to kneel during the national anthem. A slight majority said it’s not appropriate — but that was because a strong majority of white respondents opposed the tactic.

  • More than nine out of 10 white Republicans said kneeling is inappropriate, and nearly six out of 10 white independents agreed. Among white Democrats, 68% said it’s OK to kneel.


The poll found that the public largely accepts Native American-themed team names or mascots in a year when several professional teams dropped or modified them. But they have struck a particular nerve with Black Americans.

  • Overall, 64% said the use of Native American mascots honors the tribes and that team name changes have gone too far.
  • But those findings were nearly reversed among Black Americans, with 61% saying the use of mascots is disrespectful. A strong majority of white respondents and narrower majorities of Hispanic and Asian respondents said the use of mascots honors the tribes.